The Life and Work
political freedom; that, these gained, the chains would at once fall
from the people, and they would live thereafter in peace and prosperity. Needless to say, both Marx and Engels called for energetic
action for the attainment of political liberties, for the overthrow of
the reaction—but this only for the purpose of preparing the ground for
the real struggle of the workers for their emancipation from
capitalist domination. For Engels as for Marx, democracy without Communism was no democracy.
"Any other democracy" (not Communism), said Engels, "can only
exist in the heads of visionary theoreticians, who do not bother about
realities, and according to whom men and circumstances do not
develop principles, but principles develop of themselves. Democracy
has become a proletarian principle—the principle of the masses."
But for this democracy to have any value, it must be Communist, not
It may not be out of place to say a few words here as to this democracy
whose praises we hear sung now on all sides, including such sturdy
democrats as King George, Lloyd George, Bonar Law and so on, and
Our ideas on democracy illustrate admirably the way in which all
our thoughts and ideas are coloured by the prevailing economic conditions and the interests of the governing class. Of course, it is true,
in the abstract, that if the working class desired to do so they could
simply, by using their vote, set up a Socialist, even a Communist,
Government, and proceed to carry out any measure of reform they
desired, and even to abolish the private ownership in the means of
production and to Socialise them by orderly parliamentary methods.
But a moment's reflection must surely convince us that democracy,
as it exists at the present time, is a mere sham so far as the workers are
concerned. In the first place,the school and pulpit are in the hands of the
governing class,who quite naturally use them as far as they can to inculcate views in their own interests. The Press, which is the most powerful
moulder of public opinion, is again in the hands of the capitalist
class. For one Socialist or Labour paper there are hundreds of Liberal,
Tory, Radical—in short, bourgeois—papers, all inculcating the morals,
ideas and ideals of the governing class, whatever particular name or
method they may adopt in doing this. The Labour forces have not
at their command the halls, motor-cars, and vast sums of money spent
on supporting bourgeois candidates. The electoral machinery and
institutions, too, are so contrived that it is the Government—the
representatives of the ruling classes—that chooses the issues and the
moment of the elections.
The consequence is that democracy in a bourgeois society simply
tends to strengthen the position and interests of the bourgeoisie by
giving to its domination the apparent sanction of the popular vote.
Engels, therefore, truly says in his Origin of the Family, which we shall